‘Brainfreeze’, which was released as an app for iPhone and iPod to introduce VBS’s new brassy ways, takes Rob’s signature catchy lyrics and teams it with a plethora of sliding, jazzy notes, with every listen leading to the discovery of a new little tune which will undoubtedly get stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
‘So tired (so tired)’ takes on a slow swing vibe, and lyrically is one of the more morose tracks on the record, but VBS’s new found love for all instruments gold and shiny is still apparent. Just not so much as in ‘Easy Way Out’, which sounds like a brass section were told to go and have much fun as possible whilst creating music and Jones teamed the result with his morally sound lyrics to form a happy-go-lucky track teaching his fans you have really got to try to get results out of life.
Rob says himself that he wasn’t looking for the slickest of sounds from his experimentation with brass, and the album is not a perfected musical package. It’s got a boisterous feel to it, he’s playing with music, with sounds, and the results of that playing has led to an album of upbeat, skipalong songs.
Part of the problem with A Million Ways to Make Gold is that it feels a little too perfectly posed. The brass that opens 'Honey In The Gravel Mixture' sounds like it's been directly lifted from another song, and there's a sense that you've heard many techniques a thousand times before. 'Believe' features a doo-wop style middle eight and its harmonised chorus, whilst pretty, isn't remarkable enough to stick in the memory - it's also a little disconcerting to hear the same voice echoing around you, a few different vocal styles would have added extra range.
Where the album really comes into its own is the titular track - a wonderful, and somewhat ethereal track that sees Rob Jones' vocals double-tracked so its echoes fade in and out of the mix. This is over a reverberated, muted guitar riff, euphoric brass and modulated percussion of which only the cymbals and hi-hats can be heard clearly. It's one of the few tracks that looks forwards. The other is 'The Q Word', the penultimate and, at 6:21, the longest track on the album.
It opens with a rare instance of electronic instrumentation, one that sounds like an old dial-tone, full of occasional distorted blips. There's a glockenspiel, and Jones delivers his most affecting vocal as he begs a lover to stay with him. "Say no later / for now leave it as a yes" he pleads. Unlike the other tracks on A Million Ways To Make Gold, 'The Q Word' takes its time to fully reveal itself, building layers of instruments, first electronics, then a little percussion, then guitars, louder drums and finally brass. Sounds move in and out of the picture and theres a sense of hope, and genuine emotion - one that's been lacking in the other tracks that seem to rely more on an image of a cheeky-chappy, singer songwriter than anything that feels tangible, or relatable.
Unfortunately this, and the titular track are not enough to save this record. For all the talent, there is a lack of anything truly memorable. These songs all feel like they could good pop songs, but often are left without a clear hook and feel more like a facade than anything real.